The recent extension of fighting in the Iran-Iraq war to include attacks on oil tankers and other vessels in the Persian Gulf has once again focused attention on the issue of the Western world's dependence on Middle Eastern crude oil, especially that coming--as does most Middle East crude--from suppliers in the Gulf region. For the first time since the onset of the war in 1980 policy-makers and policy analysts are beginning to give serious thought to whether the economic, political, and even military security of the Western states might be adversely--some say gravely--affected by the possible spread of combat throughout the Persian Gulf littoral. To some, there is the impending menace of a third oil "shock"; while to others, there looms the far more ominous spectre of a potential clash between the superpowere.